ABERDEEN, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- They say it takes hands to build a house but only hearts can build a home. Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal has both.
Days before the Fourth of July, a national nonprofit is getting results for Stayskal, a North Carolina Green Beret with stage four cancer. On Thursday, Operation Finally Home broke ground on what will be a custom built, mortgage-free home.
“Welcome Home,” said the nonprofit’s executive director Rusty Carroll.
This follows a yearlong series of FOX 46 investigations into the botched medical care received by Stayskal at Womack Army Medical Center. His story received national attention and changed federal law.
Underneath the tall trees, in the middle of a forest, community members came together to support the Fort Bragg Green Beret and Purple Heart recipient.
“It’s something that’s hard to find words for,” said Stayskal, at the groundbreaking for his new home.
Operation Finally Home first surprised the family on Fox and Friends on New Year’s Eve. The charity donates custom homes to wounded veterans across the US.
Carroll became aware of Stayskal’s fight to fix the Feres Doctrine – which prevents soldiers from suing the government – after seeing his story on FOX 46.
“Amazing people have come together to help provide something for my family,” said Stayskal “To give them such a relief to take that weight off them and to take the weight off myself so I can continue to focus on treatment…it’s just an amazing feeling.”
For more than a year, FOX 46 followed Stayskal’s fight to sue the military after doctors misdiagnosed his lung cancer, now stage four, as pneumonia. He says his health is “stable.” These days, he is spending more time at home with his family but still travels for cancer treatment.
His story resulted in a bill named in his honor that was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. For the first time, troops can be compensated for military medical malpractice.
“I don’t know how you are,” Stayskal told his wife, Megan, “I still look back and I’m like, ‘Did we really just do that?’ It’s hard to believe all this.”
Several businesses and organizations chipped in by donating money and supplies to make this possible. Builders say it will take six to nine months to complete.
“We found this fitting to be able to do this groundbreaking just prior to the Fourth of July,” said Carroll. “To help celebrate the country’s birth and our freedoms and sacrifices that somebody like Rich and his family provide.”
The new home is designed to meet Stayskal’s health needs.
“He has cancer in his hips,” said Megan. “He has it in his pelvis. So stairs aren’t going to be something in his future.”
“Get well, stay well, and enjoy this place,” one man told Stayskal.
This place, soon to be their new home, is built by love from a grateful community wanting to give back to a family who has given so much.
“Thank you for taking the time,” said Megan, “and supporting our family,” she told organizers, after breaking ground with shovels tied with American flag ribbons.